Vague = Valueless

“The very first law in advertising is to avoid the concrete promise and cultivate the delightfully vague.” Perhaps in mass media, 30-second-or-less advertising, this applies. But not in the real world. Most communications need specificity. This counts double in social media, where messages are limited by technology and providers (like Twitter’s 140 character cut-off) or by the scavenger nature of most social media consumers. Vagueness leads to disinterest, which leads to an inattentive or diminishing audience, which leads to a not-for-profit status. Treat each outbound communication like it was your only chance to talk with the intended audience, and make it mean something to them. If the communication is designed to lead them to more communications (i.e., a Tweet and link to a content page), then make sure the terminal content has meaning too. … Continue reading

Prepaganda Promotional

Every politically aware person knows about propaganda, but few know preganda. Surprisingly few marketing people know it either. Prepaganda (sometimes called preganda) is designed to prepare an audience for new thinking, or to convince the audience of something that might not be entirely true. Politicians love to persuade the public that they have deep adversaries on a topic even when their alleged opponents agree with forthcoming legislation. Such Prepaganda makes the politician look strong and ultimately victorious while hiding crony capitalism or undesirable relationships overseas. Marketers occasionally need to do something similar, though for more rational and honest reasons. Prepaganda prepares a market to accept new thinking, and as we all know, unsupervised customer thinking can be dangerous. Marketers often need to get buyers to think differently about their problems, strategic directions, solutions and what they perceive as valuable before a product can be accepted. Back when Linux was popular … Continue reading

Copy Wronging

Marketing copywriters are like novelists: they don’t like critics. During a recent client copywriting process, I tighten reins on a copywriter who had soared off the cliffs of bombastic prose, painting the client as a little too good to be true. This otherwise bright and competent copywriter, evidently distracted thinking about his unfinished novel, had peppered his newly wrought copy with words that created a sense of disbelief. Such words are easy to spot … just look at the “about us” page of any funded start-up. When you see “market leading”, “disruptive” and “compelling”, then they likely are none of the above and you immediately sense it. Words can trigger emotions, and good copywriters – armed with a competent branding guide – will select the right words to evoke the right emotion. Word churners (a polite word for “hack”) often pick easy and dramatic sounding words in an attempt to … Continue reading

Vaguely Blunt

Bluntness in outbound marketing can be taken too far

Some marketing messages are delivered like a 2×4 head shot. Others come and go like whispered gibberish. Blunt market messages cannot be mistaken, but lack emotional connections. The more vaporous varieties tend to say nothing, but say it prettily leaving customers delightfully confused. In B2B tech marketing you see attempts at both extremes and failures either way. They bomb because attaching to functional and emotional drivers delivers the best total cognitive attraction possible and short selling either part leads to incomplete customer connections. Where confusion enters the minds of marketers comes from not understanding their target audience. I had a client once who sold IT infrastructure software, yet decided they wanted an “irreverent” brand. The result was their messaging lacked the requisite blunt force trauma of traditional B2B communications aimed at executives making strategic technology decisions. This client’s failure to understand the typical no nonsense CxO led them to induce … Continue reading

Pointed Communications

trade Show Booth - Crowd Watching Presentation While Carpets Being Rolled-up

A relative of mine tells her stories … for hours … before ending them with her point. Good thing she isn’t in marketing. Get to the point quickly, then fill in the gaps. I was recently reminded of this while being a judge for the CODiE awards. I think I’m in my 573rd year of being a CODiE judge. The contestant’s presenter launched into a live demo of the product without summarizing what the product did much less its key value propositions. Thankfully he skipped the all-too-common dozen or so slides providing background about the company and other snore generators. He was like my relative, all too eager to tell his story as opposed to telling me why I should care. With attention spans shrinking fast as content explodes, getting to the point becomes ever more important. Telling people why they should care up front causes them to care. When … Continue reading